The defence lawyers in the Beli Manastir case against four people charged with war crimes in Croatia claim that the crimes were committed on orders from the first defendant Zoran Vuksic.
During her closing argument, lawyer of Branko Hrnjak said that her client was forced to take part in the killing of civilians in the Croatian village of Beli Manastir, since Zoran Vuksic threatened him with death.
According to the indictment, Zoran Vuksic, Slobodan Strigic, Branko Hrnjak and Velimir Bertic, all members of the special unit within the military forces of the Serbian Autonomous Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, were responsible for the killing of at least six civilians of non-Serb nationality in the municipality of Beli Manastir in eastern Croatia in 1991.
They are also charged with illegal detention, violation of bodily integrity, intimidation, terror, torture and inhuman treatment of civilians.
Lawyer Radmila Jelicic reminded the Trial Chamber that Hrnjak, during the investigation stage of the process, described the pressure he had been under because of the daily threats from Vuksic.
“Vuksic told me several times, when we were in Croatia and later in Serbia, that if I talk about this case, my whole family and I will disappear,” said Hrnjak at the time.
Velimir Bertic’s lawyer also presented his closing argument, claiming that his client found himself in a specific situation, but that he was not responsible for crimes that the prosecution charged him with.
Lawyer Miroslav Perkovic added that the prosecution failed to point out the connection that existed between political leaders and the army and population in the territory of Eastern Croatia, and that the responsible for all war crimes committed in this area should be sought among members of the State Security.
Previously, prosecutor Veselin Mrdak asked that Zoran Vuksic be sentenced to 20 years of prison, since he is considered to be most responsible for the committed crimes, Slobodan Strigic to 14 to 15 years, Branko Hrnjak to 13 to 14 years, while for Velimir Bertic he asked three to four years.
The defence will resume presenting its closing arguments on Thursday.